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Feldman v. Woodlock

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 17, 2014

DEBRA FELDMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

F. DENNIS SAYLOR, IV, District Judge.

This dispute arises out of a prior action within this district. Plaintiff Debra Feldman, proceeding pro se, has filed a complaint against 34 named defendants and 75 unnamed defendants. The complaint seeks various types of relief in connection with a previous action brought by plaintiff for copyright violations that was dismissed in 2009. Seventeen of the named defendants were defendants in the prior action; the remaining seventeen consist of United States District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, who presided over the prior action, and five law firms and eleven individual attorneys who represented defendants in the prior action.

All named defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Eight defendants have also moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. For the reasons stated below, the motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim will be granted and the motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction will be denied as moot. Accordingly, all of plaintiff's pending motions will be denied and the action will be dismissed.

I. Background

Plaintiff Debra Feldman is the author of a series of books, The Overlap Series. Feldman, 723 F.Supp.2d at 360. In 2009, she brought suit against various television networks, producers, creators, writers, and talent agents alleging copyright infringement, misappropriation, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. See Feldman v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 723 F.Supp.2d 357 (D. Mass. 2010) (Woodlock, J.). On July 13, 2010, the district court granted defendants' motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Id. at 360. The court found that plaintiff "failed to allege facts sufficient to demonstrate a reasonable opportunity of access to her Overlap Series book" and failed to provide evidence of probative similarity to any copyrightable elements. Id. at 366. As a result, the court found that plaintiff could not prove actual copying. Id. at 367. The court also found that plaintiff's state law claims of misappropriation, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment were preempted because they were based on the same conduct as her copyright claim. Id. at 368.

On April 15, 2011, the First Circuit affirmed the dismissal. See Feldman v. Twentieth Century Fox, et al., No. 10-2056 (1st Cir. Apr. 15, 2011), cert. denied, No. 11-6141 (Oct. 31, 2011). The First Circuit stated that "[a]lthough [plaintiff] believes that the defendants copied her works, her claims are not adequate to create a triable issue of copyright infringement." Id. On October 31, 2011, the Supreme Court denied plaintiff's petition for writ of certiorari. Feldman v. Twentieth Century Fox, 132 S.Ct. 514 (Mem.) (2011).

On October 6, 2011, the district court denied plaintiff's motion to reopen the case. On May 30, 2012, the First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court and found that "the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's motion to reopen the judgment in this case." Feldman v. Twentieth Century Fox, et al., No. 11-2368 (1st Cir. May 30, 2012).

In the present action, Feldman asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging various violations of her constitutional and other legal rights. (Complaint, ¶ 32.) The complaint names as defendants (1) Judge Woodlock, who presided over her 2009 copyright infringement action, (2) eleven attorneys and five law firms who represented the defendants in the 2009 action, and (3) seventeen defendants from the 2009 action, consisting of television networks, producers, creators, and writers of various television shows, talent agents, and talent agencies.[1] Feldman paid the filing fee for this action and summons issued as to all defendants. Several defendants filed waivers of service.

Feldman has filed the following motions: (1) a motion for preliminary discovery; (2) a motion to recuse counsel and to preclude a particular law firm (Fish & Richardson P.C.) from representing any defendants; (3) a motion to amend the complaint; (4) a motion to strike the memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss by the Twentieth Century Fox defendants; (5) a further motion to recuse counsel; (6) a motion to designate the memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss of the Touchstone defendants as a "fraudulent instrument"; (7) a motion to designate Disney's affidavit supporting its motion to dismiss as a "fraudulent instrument"; (8) a motion for protective order; (9) a motion for default judgment as to Evans; (10) a motion for a default judgment as to Zelle McDonough & Cohen; (11) a motion for a default judgment as to United Talent Agency; (12) a second motion to amend the complaint; (13) a motion to file a consolidated reply to two separate defendant responses to her motion to amend; and (14) a motion for an extension of time to file such a consolidated reply.

All defendants have filed motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. There are seven such motions in total: one each from defendants Woodlock, United Talent Agency, Evans, and Zelle McDonough & Cohen; one from the Twentieth Century Fox defendants; one from the Touchstone defendants; and one from the WME and M&E defendants collectively. Defendant Woodlock further contends that Feldman's claims are precluded by the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity.[2]

Eight defendants have together filed two motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. One such motion was filed by the WME defendants and the other was filed by defendants Berlanti, Gordon, Guggenheim, Rhimes, Deluxe Pictures, and Disney collectively.

II. Legal Framework

A. Pleading Standards

Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a complaint can be dismissed for, among other things, "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To state a claim, a complaint must set forth (1) "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction"; (2) "a short and plain statement of the claim showing ...


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